When I asked my husband, Ron, to look over this essay for mistakes, this is what he laughingly said. “There is a lot of work here. Anyone who reads this will want to eat Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant!”
It is true, isn’t it? For some meals, you work for hours in the kitchen, and when the meal is over in a matter of minutes, you wonder if it was a good use of your time. When I wonder, I always decide that it is. This year, the amounts I need are much less, and that makes for lighter work. For this is the ‘opposite’ year for us, a time when some of the kids have Thanksgiving with in-laws, or at their own homes. So, our table will only seat seven this year.
Write out your complete menu, and beverage choice. I often serve a tart punch and water for the meal, and serve coffee with dessert. So, I include cream, sugar, and low-cal sweetener to the menu list. On the menu, mark the day, and the time, that the first prep, and all following preps, should begin. Go so far as to make a note to get the table butter out so that it will be room temperature when your meal is served. Write down ice, make sure there is plenty made ahead. This is easy to forget. Before sitting down at the table, check the menu to avoid forgetting someone’s favorite dish. Have I ever done that? I refuse to count the times, hah, even after quickly scanning the list! After Thanksgiving, make note of the amounts served, and how much was left, along with the number of adults and children. Next Thanksgiving the info will be helpful.
Everything which can be done ahead of time should be done. If possible, ready the table(s) ahead, and if necessary, cover with a sheet(s). Pick out the serving dishes needed, identify them with post-it notes, and place serving utensils with them.
For a large number of guests, I do not reheat the dinner rolls, but I do make sure that they are at room temperature. Reheating tends to dry them out, and often the rolls are cool by the time guests take their first bites. I don’t like to reheat a basket of rolls in the microwave; it seems to change the texture.
For holidays, if I am buying flowers, I do so a day or two ahead, and arrange them at that time. At the meal, if the flowers are not at their peak, at least they are in place, and are not a part of the day’s busyness.
The following I learned from my daughter-in-law, Joy, and what a help it has been. She roasts her turkey in a 22 quart, electric roaster. The turkey roasts in far less time, and if you can keep from lifting the lid, the turkey comes out moist. Also, using a roaster frees up the oven.
I purchase two turkeys, one to roast ahead of time, the other to roast on Thanksgiving. After roasting the first turkey, I freeze the meat in usable amounts for later recipes. I save the drippings to add to the Thanksgiving Day turkey stock. Once I have the meat off the turkey, I simmer the entire carcass in water on low, very low. After several hours, I strain the liquid off, and place it back on the stove, and slow simmer it down until it is flavorful. Then, I add the drippings to the stock. After that, I separate out enough stock to freeze for boiling the homemade noodles – which is done the day before the holiday. The rest is saved for making the gravy on Thanksgiving day – to be used for the potatoes and the biscuits-in-gravy. The leftover drippings and stock from the Thanksgiving Day turkey makes gravy for that week’s hot turkey sandwiches, etc. Having the gravy made ahead makes getting everything on the table in quick-time a great deal easier.
I prefer same day pies, but for Thanksgiving the pies are made the day before. Sometimes, for the day ahead baking, I have the pie dough rolled out flat, frozen, ready to use. I also learned, late-in-life, to use ice water for making the pie dough. I use 10-inch pie dough for 9-inch pies. That gives me plenty of dough for rolling, and allows a thick, fluted edge. Yes, I have extra, I freeze it as dough balls to roll out for quick, single desserts.
Making the mashed potatoes Thanksgiving morning, and putting them on warm in a crock pot makes serving the meal easier, but they do need stirred from time to time. If you need to make the potatoes a day ahead, I use a make ahead potato recipe with sour cream and cream cheese. They seem to hold up better overnight than plain mashed.
Well in advance:
I make a narrow, card stock menu with Thanksgiving stickers. It sets next to, or on, each plate. If the gathering is large, and many side dishes will be passed, it helps guests to know what will be coming around.
I make place cards for the table(s)…for two reasons. One – so that guests will not be uneasy about where to sit. The second reason is to remind us to be thankful to God. On the place card, under the guests name, there is a verse like, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good: His love endures forever.” Psalms 107:1. I do recycle the place cards, while keeping supplies for making identical ones for new guests. And with some of the grandkids now dating, and three married, I have had to dig into those supplies several times.
If reading this, like Ron mentioned, has worn you out, I have been told that Grand Traverse Resort serves a fabulous Thanksgiving buffet!
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